21 December 2017 – WHEN ANGELO SCOTT won the Most Improved award at the 2016 Ara Youth Guarantee Awards, it was an emotional moment for the whole family, father Peter Scott says.
“We weren’t expecting an award. It’s the first time in his life he has won anything. It was a big moment for us as well. I burst out crying. The lady next to me asked why I was crying and I said, ‘that’s my son’, then she started crying and my wife was also crying!”
Angelo’s training at Ara Institute of Technology in Christchurch has been a big journey for the whole family. Angelo has autism; a developmental disability that makes learning difficult and social interaction challenging. After secondary school, he joined Workskills, a supported learning programme at Ara designed especially for students with intellectual disabilities. He was then able to transition into the Youth Guarantee programme, a fee-free training programme for 15 to 19 year olds, supported learning stream – the only level two supported learning programme in the country.
Tutor Bill Bryce said that Angelo’s improvement in his Youth Guarantee supported learning cookery class had been “exceptional”.
“When Angelo first arrived, for the first few days I was worried. He was not sure how to hold a knife properly and was very quiet. At the start he would not try things because of lack of confidence and would expect help but not ask for it.
“However his improvement has been exceptional. In cookery he is excelling. He will now attempt tasks and will ask for help directly if he needs it. He always tries hard. He smiles now, whereas at the start he was quite frightened. He beams, especially when I tell him that he has done something well.”
Seeing this young student blossom has been hugely rewarding. “I seem to have made a connection with him. In fact I would like to think I had a good connection with all the students. They have all improved so much, but Angelo perhaps had further to come than most.
“I have 18 to 19 years of experience in teaching. As I come to the end of my teaching career I have been doing the odd bit of thinking back and reflecting. It feels a bit like everything I have learned so far has just been preparation for teaching these type of students. I do find it very rewarding, stimulating and challenging of course.”
Angelo’s parents have nothing but praise for the programme and the staff. “We are full of admiration for Ara; the way they have treated him and us as well,” Peter says. “We are just blown away by the whole thing. We can see him going forward, coming out of his shell, he is responsible and just so happy. He has not missed a day of class; even when he was a bit sick he insisted on going.
“For us it is a 100/100 result.”
Angelo has been cooking at home too. Asked how he liked his cooking class, he said it was “really cool”.
The awards ceremony were the icing on the cake for all concerned. “He had a huge beaming smile on his face and held eye contact the whole time when he approached me for his award,” Bill says.
“I think we made a good choice.”
Angelo is still at Ara and is now in the Humanities department furthering his skills by continuing with the life skills’ course. He will finish next year.
Tutors Barbara Ross-Davis and Lesley Ryan have achieved excellent results with Angelo, says Peter.
“We are so pleased we were able to get Angelo in at Ara as they have done the most wonderful job with him.”
When he joins the workforce sometime later next year, he will have the skills to support him.
This article first appeared in the Altogether Autism Journal Issue 1, 2018.